when you don’t want to go home

A month ago at this time, I was breathing in the intoxicating grandeur of the Rocky Mountains.

IMG_4358

IMG_4367

IMG_4378

We were in Vail, Colorado for a family wedding, and it was pure bliss.  The weekend was spent hiking, dining and dancing the night away, and passed altogether too quickly.

When it was time to say goodbye, we all felt like this:

IMG_4622

We didn’t want to go home.

In fact, I could’ve stayed there forever, in spite of the waves of altitude sickness that assaulted all of us at some point, irrespective of age or gender.

I was reminded of my daughter, a year and a half earlier, who had been sledding for the first time.

On one of the first occasions that my African-born children ever experienced the exhilarating rush of a sledding hill, my seven-year-old daughter let the adrenaline get to her head.  In a moment of boldness, she dove headfirst onto her circular plastic disc, soared down the snow-covered hill, and biffed, chin skidding across the ice.  A howl could be heard from the bottom of the hill to the top, and the best I could do was to dab her bloody chin with a used tissue.  Over the decibels of her wailing, I asked, “Do you want to go home?”

“Nooo!” she exclaimed adamantly between sobs.

Of course she didn’t want to go home.  Why would she?

In comparison to a perfect (albeit slightly bloodied) sledding hill, home was a dull and boring second-class pick.

If you’re a parent, it’s quite likely that when you’ve gone to pick up your kids from a playdate at a friend’s house, you’ve been welcomed with the infamous whine:  “I don’t wanna go home!”

I was throwing that same internal tantrum when it was time to leave Vail.

IMG_4359

Often, even with bloody chins from sledding hills or sudden nausea from the altitude of the mountains, we would rather stay in the places we’re having fun than to go back home to the daily grind of the normal routine.

And if we’re honest, don’t we sometimes have the same view of heaven, in comparison to the pleasures on earth?

In his book, The Glory of Heaven, John MacArthur writes this:

“I have actually heard Christians say they don’t want to go to heaven until they’ve enjoyed all that the world can deliver.  When all earthly pursuits are exhausted, or when age and sickness hamper their enjoyment, then they believe they’ll be ready for heaven.  ‘Please God, don’t take me to heaven yet,’ they pray.  ‘I haven’t even been to Hawaii!’”

Maybe for you it’s not Hawaii, but there’s likely something on earth that is tempting each of us to stay behind.

Maybe your view of heaven is tainted, and, like Matt Chandler once believed, you think heaven is going to be dull and boring after a while.

In his book, The Explicit Gospel, Chandler recalls his former feelings toward this verse of the song, Amazing Grace:

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

Chandler admits,

“The picture painted by this great hymn is of an eternal session of praise music.  I remember being a bit mortified by this idea after my conversion.  Although I loved the Lord, the concept of just singing to the Lord for trillions of years was more than my mind could fathom.  I thought, ‘Surely we’d get bored with that.’  Even the most amazing things on earth get a little boring after a while.  So how is it that billions of trillions of years from now, I’m still going to be plucking my harp, sitting on my cloud in perfect contentment?  … The image is conjured of robe-wearing, harp-playing, eternal song-singing Tom and Jerry heaven.  Is that really what heaven will be like?”

If you’ve trusted in Christ for your salvation, then there is a home waiting for you in glory.  Jesus himself promised that he has gone ahead to prepare a place for you.

As Christians, are we living as though we’re excited about spending eternity with our Lord?

Or are we pouting and dragging our feet, wishing we didn’t have to leave all that we enjoy here on earth?

Don’t get me wrong .. There is astounding beauty to be found here, and God put it here for our enjoyment.

But it’s temporary.

Not only is it temporary, but it’s only a shadow of things to come.  Even the best sledding hill and the most breathtaking mountain range on earth don’t compare to the glory that will be found in heaven for those who love Him.

So let me ask you this:

When the time comes for the Father to call you Home, how will you respond?

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

between heaven and earth – a review

Image

Those who follow this blog will know that I often write about the topic of heaven and eternity.

In fact, the entire focus of this blog in October 2013 was Defining Home in 31 Days — specifically, how we can elevate heaven in our minds when we think about ‘home.’

So when I saw that a new book called Between Heaven and Earth: Finding Hope, Courage and Passion through a Fresh Vision of Heaven was available from Bethany House, I requested a free copy in exchange for a review.

Since I’ve done so much reading and research about the topic, I found that this particular book had a lot of overlap with topics and issues I’ve addressed in my own writing, including heaven as our home and heaven as our hope.

Pastor Steve Berger’s main premise could basically be summed up by what Jesus named as the greatest commandments — to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Through loving God and loving other people, Berger says, we will “have our hearts in heaven, and our hands in the harvest.”

The most powerful aspect of this work, to me, was the personal testimony of the author himself.

Steve Berger and his wife have lived through a profound and heart-wrenching tragedy in the death of their son, who died on his nineteenth birthday from injuries sustained in a one-person car crash.

Learning the details of their agonizing experience and then reading how their passion for heaven and eternity has been renewed and invigorated is inspirational.  It would be easy for people in that situation to turn their backs on God as a result of deep anger and resentment.  However, through the grace of God, the Berger family has been enabled to increase their praise, giving glory to God for His sacrifice in Christ, and for the hope of heaven.

In his book, Berger writes about the believer’s tension between desiring to be with Christ in glory, and the desire to remain on earth to continue His work.  He urges believing readers to see that when one’s heart is truly wrapped up in heaven, one’s hands will be active in the harvest, serving and proclaiming the gospel to a lost and needy world.

Berger addresses the question, “What are some factors that keep us from effectively having our ‘hand in the harvest’?”

Some hindrances addressed by the author in response to this question are: a lack of vision and compassion, procrastination, discomfort, mistaken priorities, selfishness, and fear.

He also accurately assesses, “…there is a shortage of laborers because we’re not seeing the real spiritual condition of the multitudes.” (p. 125)

He then goes on to emphasize that if we’re going to make an impact with our hands in the harvest, we need to be prepared, just as Phillip was prepared in his response to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts chapter 8.

“When we’re going to serve with our hands in the harvest, we need to be equipped — we need the Word in us and we need to be in the Word”(p. 137).  In other words, “We can’t give away what we don’t know” (p. 144).

Berger urges readers to spend time delving into the Scriptures and hiding God’s Word in our hearts, as His truth is the tool that will equip us to respond and minister to the harvest.

Two chapters which I did not entirely agree with were Chapter 6, ‘What Will We Do in Heaven?’ and Chapter 9, ‘The Power of the Holy Spirit.’  For further explanation, please feel free to contact me.

The chapter that resonated with me most was Chapter 7, ‘Heaven is for Healing.’  It always brings me joy and comfort to be reminded that there will be no more aching in heaven.

If I had to rate this book, I would probably give it three out of five stars.  While the content was orderly and understandable, I found the style of writing to be somewhat lackluster and repetitive for my personal taste.

However, after writing this post, a friend directed me to a radio interview with the author, aired on Moody Radio.  I listened and found the show to be very encouraging, particularly Steve Berger’s expressed passion for eternity and for others to desire it as well.  This does come across in the book, but hearing his voice made the emphasis even more evident than the typed lines on the page.

Overall, this book is written with clarity and I trust that it will be an encouragement to many.

Note: If you would like more information about joining the Bethany House Blogger Review program, click here.

To order a copy of this book, click here.

home sweet home

So here we are.  Day 31 of ‘Defining Home in 31 Days.’

It was a teeny-tiny goal in the grand scheme of things, but the fact that I made it to the end carries with it a sense of accomplishment.

Those who have taken part in 31 Days may be able to relate.

We have arrived.

We made it to the end.

Maybe you’ve had other goals you’ve accomplished.

My sister writes novels in 30 days.  To reach the end of the month with 50,000 words is a great accomplishment.

Some of you are runners.  To train for a race and make it to the finish line feels amazing.  (At least, I would imagine … I’ve never actually put myself through such torture.)

finish line

If these earthly goals can carry with them such pleasure, imagine what it will be like when we make it to the end of the all-important race.

When we arrive at the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.

When we lay down our man-made trophies and pick up the crown of life.

When we, Lord-willing, hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

It is purely by His help and sustaining grace that we could ever attain such a goal — not by our own works, but by the grace of God Himself.

And certainly it will not be due to our own accomplishment, but solely because of the One who hung on the cross and declared, “It is finished.”

We won’t be patting ourselves on the back that day for a job well done, but will be praising the One who began a good work and was faithful to complete it.

What joy will fill our hearts when we come to the end of this journey and reach our final destination.

Only then will we be

home, sweet home.

This is Day 31 of ‘Defining Home in 31 Days.’  Tune in tomorrow for a highlights reel.

Photo credit: Pete

heaven is …

Just sixteen days after my mom died, I wrote this on a former blog of mine:

I’m thinking a whole lot more about heaven these days, mostly wondering what it is like.

Silly thoughts, really, like when it is a beautiful day outside and I think to myself, “Oh, what a pity that Mom is missing such a glorious day. She would have loved this blue sky and sunshine.”

Then I think, “Hey, idiot. The weather is infinitely better in heaven on a permanent basis. We’re livin’ in the Shadowlands.”

Yet again, I will drive past one of mom’s favorite restaurants and think, “How sad that she’ll never be able to eat Chicken Pad Thai from Thai Palace or Mongolian beef from Mr. You’s Chinese take-out.”

Then again, I realize, “Hey, idiot. The food is much better in heaven. The Chinese buffet on earth has got nothin’ on heaven’s buffet.”

Even though it’s been over two years since I wrote that, the sentiments remain.

DSCF0243

Our knowledge of what heaven is really like is limited.  The Bible tells us just enough to know that there is nothing better.

Heaven is …

more glorious than the most breathtaking sunset you have ever seen.

Heaven is …

sweeter than the sound of your child’s uncontrollable giggles and “I love you, Mommy.”

Heaven is …

more satisfying than the lingering embrace of the one you love.

Heaven is …

infinitely better than the best you’ve ever known so far.

We’re livin’ in the Shadowlands. 

This is Day 29 of ‘Defining Home in 31 Days.’  Click here for the contents page for this series.

the trip of a lifetime

Have you ever thought about how we can prepare for heaven?

I found the following excerpt to be very challenging and thought-provoking.  It comes from the book, Relationships: A mess worth making, by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp.

“How do you stimulate your imagination in any area of life?  If you have a vision for decorating your house, you buy decorating magazines and pore over them until you get an idea of what you want to do.  If you want to take a vacation, you sit down with someone who has been where you want to go.  You talk about his trip, gaining insight and excitement about what you can do when you get there.  You will probably get travel brochures or look at the pictures from your friend’s trip.”

If heaven is our true, eternal home, and heaven is where we’re headed, then surely we ought to prepare ourselves for our final destination, the mansion that is prepared for us.

There may not be any travel brochures or webpages offered by those who’ve been there already, except for one: the testimony of Christ Himself.  He is the friend who shows us the pictures of his trip, who describes the beach house at the end of the winding dirt road, who provides us with full-color magazine images to gawk at and drool over.

How are you getting ready for this ultimate trip to paradise? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is Day 28 of ‘Defining Home in 31 Days.’  Click here for a full list of posts in this series. 

let her stay

Stepping HeavenwardOne of the books that has challenged me most in my faith, my ever-present battle against selfishness and my attitude toward death is a book called ‘Stepping Heavenward,’ a journal written by Elizabeth Prentiss (1818-1878).

I have read it twice, and both times, I hoped that I would remember a certain excerpt when the time came to release my mom from this binding world into eternity. Thankfully, the Lord did in fact bring it to my mind, and I originally wrote this post two weeks after she died (now two years ago).

I hope the following excerpt will be a blessing and a challenge to you as well.

Reflecting back upon her mother’s illness, Elizabeth writes:

I saw that she was failing but flattered myself that her own serenity and our care would prolong her life still for many years. I longed to have my children become old enough to fully appreciate her sanctified character; and I thought she would gradually fade away and be set free,

As light winds wandering through groves of bloom,
Detach the delicate blossoms from the tree.

But God’s thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor His ways as our ways. Her feeble body began to suffer the rudest assaults of pain; day and night, night and day, she lived through a martyrdom in which what might have been a lifetime of suffering was concentrated into a few months. To witness these sufferings was like the sundering of joints and marrow; and once, only once, thank God! my faith in Him staggered and reeled to and fro. “How can He look down on such agonies!” I cried in my secret soul. “Is this work of a God of love, of mercy?” Mother seemed to suspect my thoughts, for she took my hand tenderly in hers and said with great difficulty:

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him (Job 13:15). He is just as good as ever.” And she smiled. I ran away to Ernest crying, “Oh, is there nothing you can do for her?”

“What should a poor mortal do where Christ has done so much, my darling?” he said, taking me in his arms. “Let us stand aside and see the glory of God with our shoes from off our feet.” But he went to her with one more desperate effort to relieve her, yet in vain.

Mrs. Embury came in just then; and after looking on a moment in tears, she said to me:

“God knows whom He can trust! He would not lay His hand thus on all His children.”

Those few words quieted me. Yes, God knows. And now it is all over. My precious, precious mother has been a saint in heaven more than two years and has forgotten all the battles she fought on earth and all her sorrows and all her sufferings in the presence of her Redeemer….

… My steadfast aim now is to follow in my mother’s footsteps; to imitate her cheerfulness, her benevolence, her bright, inspiring ways; and never to rest till in place of my selfish nature I become as full of Christ’s love as she became. I am glad she is at last relieved from the knowledge of all my cares; and though I often and often yearn to throw myself into her arms and pour out my cares and trials into her sympathizing ears, I would not have her back for all the world. She has got away from all the turmoil and suffering of life; let her stay!

This is Day 27 of ‘Defining Home in 31 Days.’  Click here for a full list of posts in this series.